eradicate the practice. Indeed, where military and police officials were found guilty, they were often given derisory sentences. In a 1984 case, two SWATF members were each fined R50 after being found guilty of assaulting sixty-threeyear-old Mr Ndara Kapitango, whom they roasted over an open fire, causing extensive injuries. In another case in 1983, two Koevoet members were given similarly small fines after the death of a detainee, Mr Kadmimu Katanga, whom they had beaten with an ox yoke.
97 In general, police and soldiers could escape prosecution under section 103 of the Defence Act, which granted immunity to members of the security forces for any acts carried out under operational conditions, providing they were done “in good faith”. South African State President PW Botha invoked this clause twice; first in 1986 to stop the trial of four soldiers accused of beating a detainee, Mr Frans Uapota, to death; and again in 1988 to stop the trial of six South African soldiers charged with the murder of SWAPO leader Mr Immanuel Shifidi, who was assassinated at a public meeting.
Extra-judicial executions and killings
98 The powers granted to security force personnel, and the secrecy in which they operated, created conditions for summary executions and killings for which they did not have to account. Usually, inquests into deaths were not held in operational areas. When they were, they were usually brief and inadequate, and responsibility was commonly attributed to “persons unknown”. It was common practice for the security forces to leave bodies where they lay or to bury them in shallow graves at the place of death.
99 Koevoet in particular kept no proper or official records of the identities, numbers or whereabouts of people it killed. It seems that the unit was only really interested in keeping scorecards of those it killed for bounty. These practices were confirmed by journalists who were allowed to travel with security force units, as well as by court testimonies by security force members. At the height of the war, in the early to mid-1980s, Koevoet alone claimed a kill rate of around 300 to 500 people a year, for which its members were paid a bounty per corpse. Rough ‘body counts’ were periodically issued by military headquarters, but there was never any independent confirmation as to whether these figures were accurate or whether the victims were civilians or SWAPO fighters.
VOLUME 2 CHAPTER 2 The State outside South Africa between 1960 and 1990 PAGE 69